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Drum camp requires focus

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Mobile Percussion Seminar

These campers drum to the beat of a man named Thom Hannum. The founder of the weeklong Thom Hannum Mobile Percussion Seminar at the University of Massachusetts is director of the UMass percussion program.

He started the camp 17 years ago because he thought such a program would help the university’s band program.

“It’s a great outlet for the cultivation of students,” he said.

The day begins at 8:30 a.m. and other than meal breaks continues through until 9:30 p.m.

“They spend the time drumming,” said Bradley M. O’Connor, the camp director. “We really ask a lot. They go home pretty tired.”

But, he said, “The students come back year after year.”

O’Connor, who teaches percussion at North Hagerstown High School in Hagerstown, Md., said there are 105 at the camp this year, most of whom are from New England. The youngest is 13 and the oldest 21.

Ned R. Lucas also came from Hagerstown and is back for his second summer “to improve as a player.

“I’m learning from experience of the instructors,” he said. He’s the captain of the drum-line back home, “so I’m learning things up here and bringing them back home to better (all of) us as well.” The soon-to-be high school senior is hoping to obtain a scholarship to drum when he goes on to college.

“It’s tough stuff. We put in a lot of time and energy.” But, he said, “You gain so much from it.”

Michael A. Pellin, of Suffield, and Timothy R. Miller, of Springfield, will be seniors at Cathedral High School in Springfield. Pellin is in his third summer at the camp, Miller his second.

Miller said that his instructor “gives us little tips that bring us a long way.”

And he said that elevates playing skills. Pellin said, “It’s a really long day,” but it’s worth it.

Elizabeth V. Berry is a 15-year-old from Killingly, Conn., who is also returning for a second year.

“They focus so much on technique,” she said of the instructors. She noticed a difference in her playing after the first day of the camp last year. “I keep improving my technique and become a better player.” She said the instructors – three for the nine students – can zero in on each musician and immediately correct what’s wrong.

Some of the teachers here are UMass alumni who can speak about the program. Some of the teachers are current UMass students. For those students, the program allows them to practice their teaching skills. Hannum said they “teach a work ethic and have fun while doing it.”

By Diane Lederman
Springfield Republican
Sunday, August 12, 2007

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